It was during the summer window last season that Rangers seized an opportunity and dipped into the transfer market to solve their left-back problem. Lee Wallace had been frozen out and while Jon Flanagan is a perfectly dependable defender, he was not the left-footer and someone who could complement James Tavernier’s role at right-back that Rangers had in mind.
That particular search led them to Borna Barišić of Osijek, who Rangers knocked out of the Europa League second qualifying round. However, Steven Gerrard and the Rangers fans seemed to be taken aback by the then Osijek skipper’s quality during the tie. He was marauding up and down that left-hand side against his opposite skipper James Tavernier – head bandaged and thundering into tackles, which is a rarity these days. The Borna Barišić we witnessed in those two matches seemed to be the man that Rangers had been looking for to complete their defence – or so they thought.
The two games that made Rangers sign Barišić
Let’s take a closer look at Barišić‘s stats in the two matches against Rangers, which would ultimately seal him a move to Ibrox. In the first leg, Barišić made six passes that would lead to shots, four of his eight crosses were accurate, two of his three dribbles were successful and he won two of his three offensive duels.
Looking at the second leg where he would find the net, 100% of his five dribbles were successful ones. He won five of his seven offensive duels and made one progressive run.
If you take those two-game as a sample size, it’s clear that Gerrard and co. thought they were signing the Croatian James Tavernier. In fact, those stats make for impressive reading – even more impressive than his wand of a left foot.
His struggles to adapt to Scottish football
However, the move from Osijek to Rangers hasn’t worked out as planned thus far. Gerrard told him he had to toughen up after a winter friendly against HJK Helsinki and he’s been very much a bit-part player at times, some of that is down to his own form or the lack thereof. And some of it has been down to bad luck with niggly injuries.
His Rangers overall stats read like this: 27 appearances, 1 goal and six assists. Given he’s been at Ibrox that’s not impressive at considering that he’s been at Rangers for over a year. At times, he’s struggled to handle the physical nature of Scottish football and has looked a pale shadow of the warrior-like Osijek skipper with the head bandage.
This is his last chance – and he has to seize it
Opportunity may have knocked for Barišić. Jon Flanagan has recently been sidelined with a hernia issue, meaning the Croat may get the chance and if he does, it will probably be his last one to prove himself.
The Rangers fans know what he is capable of having witnessed that quality he has in his locker in fleeting glimpses for and against their team.
Now we are about to find out what Borna Barišić is really made of: does he have the hunger and wherewithal to go and make himself undroppable for the period that Flanagan is out? He is Croatia’s left-back after all. He has to take this chance and win back the fans and re-introduce them to the real Borna Barišić rather than the man who has been filling his shirt for the majority of his time at Rangers.
This is the chance he’s been waiting for and he’s got to grab it with both hands and save his floundering Rangers career.
Will the real Borna Barišić please stand up?